Satellite Reign (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £22.99 (£29.99 for Deluxe Edition)
Where To Get It: Steam

‘Satellite Reign is similar to Syndicate.’ I’ve been seeing this phrase a lot, unsurprising, because the game was billed as a spiritual successor to that second game, made by developers who worked on it, and it does, indeed, have similarities. But it’s not a terribly useful phrase. Let me try and do things a little better for you. For extra comparison, I’ve also written a Going Back on Syndicate.

The intro to the game is quite interesting, and quite fitting for a corporate overlord surveying the situation.

The intro to the game is quite interesting, and quite fitting for a corporate overlord surveying the situation.

So, let’s go back to basics: Satellite Reign is a game where four corporate “Specialist Staff” (That’s a nice, corporate way of saying “Wetworks Operatives”, itself a nice way of saying “Professional Killers and Saboteurs”) are sent on various missions to ensure that your corporation is the one that gets to continue doing business. If you guessed this involves murder, assassination, property damage, and general mayhem, you would not only win an imaginary cookie, you’d also win a visit to [insert corp]’s wonderful Human Resources Department… Specifically the Attitude Adjustment centre, because you’ve quite clearly got the wrong idea about how the Glorious Corporation works.

It is, however, somewhat loadscreen heavy. Once the game actually begins, there’s less, but with my setup being less than optimal, three loading screens is a significant time investment once the game begins. And then the fun begins.

See all those dots in the minimap? People. Many of them more important than you realise at first.

See all those dots in the minimap? People. Many of them more important than you realise at first.

Except… Once you leave the tutorial, the openness of the world works against you. The game, in a sense, resists being played. The camera refuses to move from a certain angle, despite tall buildings getting in the way, and you will be spending a fair amount of time paused in the mission control screen, poring over what you know of the map. It’s also pretty resource intensive, so it’s more important than usual to meet more than the minimum specs, or else you’re going to be waiting longer, and reacting more slowly to situations as they develop.

I have to admit, although I love me a good cyberpunk game (And, importantly, Satellite Reign remains cyberpunk until you get some serious kit. For all that you’re a rival corporation, and clones exist, you’re still only four folks), I’m not so fond of Satellite Reign. The game clearly colour codes and highlights the sorts of things you want to keep an eye on, the music is quite tense, and very fitting, but you’re in an information overload from the word go, and it’s difficult to filter that.

Do I go for ATMs? Do I rob a bank or three? Get researchers? Try and level up my agents by hacking, murdering, sabotaging and hijacking? I don’t knooooooooow!

Security is no joke, even at the beginning of the game. Most of the reason I prefer stealth.

Security is no joke, even at the beginning of the game. Most of the reason I prefer stealth.

I do like that there are multiple paths through a situation. For example, the first mission, you can sneak in the back door and avoid two thirds of the security, in and out if you’re quick enough. Or you can go in the back door, gun everyone down, and leave as you came in. Similarly, you can level your agents in interesting ways, and there’s leeway even within their roles. But personally, I’m feeling lost, torn between several directions, and while that sort of fits the mood of the game, it’s not really for me. It’s a game that seems to requires multiple losses to truly master, but, unlike a roguelike, which follows the same philosophy, losing isn’t a case of “straight back in”, but loading screens and the tutorial mission. Or reloading the save.

I also like that there’s a lot going on, in a sense. Civilians, police, drones, cars… They’re all constantly moving, making for a living tapestry, and the dystopian vision is quite clear every time you turn down a side road and see rubble, and the city’s dispossesed (Who you can take advantage of). Alas, I sadly don’t think this game is for me.

If you like open worlds with lots to do, skill options, are good at squad level micro play, and don’t mind a lot of info being thrown at you, then being left to your own devices, this is probably a good game for you. If you don’t feel that real time squad combat and stealthing is your thing, then you’re probably better off with something more focused.

The Mad Welshman sat on his corporate throne, head in his hands. The synthesised voices of his agents rang in his ears, and he thought very hard of the Bahamas HR Centre.

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Invisible Inc (Review)

Source: Early Access backer
Price: base price £14.99 (Sale going on right now)
Where To Get It: Steam Page , Official Site

It's a Title Splash, Whaddya Want?

Start with two, maybe get four. Stun *all* the guards.

Even as a member of the awesome technological rebellion that is Invisible, Incorporated, I feel sorry for the security. One poor soul has been tazed for the third time in a row, and is no doubt thinking he might want to seek out a medical professional for what is obviously narcolepsy. I can’t feel too sorry, however, as the IT department of this particular company seems to want to eat my babies. This is just one of a large set of feelings I have for Invisible Inc, the latest offering from the creators of Mark of the Ninja, Klei Entertainment. Most of these feelings are positive.

The game boasts that it has 2 animated cutscenes, and I must admit, when I first saw that boast, I was leery of the release product (I’ve been following it since it debuted on Early Access), but my fears were put to rest within minutes. You see, the atmosphere in this game doesn’t depend on cutscenes. It depends on emergent stories, and I’m happy to report that what’s under the hood matches the aesthetic and themes of the game really well. So let’s go into that.

Buh Bye Nika

Sometimes, it can go horribly, disastrously wrong. And by god, it’s entertaining!

Invisible, Inc, despite its name, is not about a Syndicate like corporation, smashing all before it with soulless, mind controlled soldiers. It’s cyberpunk as all get out, and II are the little people, fighting back against the corporations that sought to stamp them out… And almost succeeded. The game’s premise is that the few free members of Invisible Inc are on the run, and have 72 hours (3 days) to, if not win their fight against such entities as Sankaku, the droid centric Japanese corporation, or the German arms supremos, [insert], at least kick them where it hurts. And all we have for that is the means to quietly slip into corporate buildings, a friendly, but limited AI, and not very much else. While options open up the more you play the game (characters who are better at killing, characters who can disable machinery, more hacking options), and you will get more powerful if you play your cards right, at the beginning, you’re up against it, and the clock is ticking.

Gameplay wise, it’s turn based, squad level strategy with some RPG elements. Two to four agents infiltrate a building, either beat down, hack, or avoid security measures, and try to both rob the place blind (Your finances and levelling up are dependent on this) and complete their objectives. And it’s pretty intuitive. There is a tutorial that gives you most of the basics, and the rest is quite helpfully shown in tooltips, in one of the three vision modes you can quickly switch between. And here’s where it gets fun.

Guess who forgot that he could hack a camera drone when he took this?

Tactical View, where the necessity of hacking that one camera drone becomes so very clear.

See, Klei thought their design through, and it shows. It’s isometric, but not only can you rotate the view, you can switch to “tactical” view, which reduces the clutter, or “Incognita Mode”, which is where all the hacking takes place. It’s a risk reward game, where rushing will, done well, ensure the steadily creeping Alarm Level of the building won’t screw you over at a critical moment… And, done badly, will quickly and efficiently see you cut down, your cause lost. But there are very few moments where I’ve put down my keyboard and muttered “That was bullshit”, and, on reflection, most of those were definitely my fault. Like the time I went for a safe that I knew would take more to get to than the three turns it would take for the guard to wake up… And neatly trapped myself, with no backup because I split my agents too often. Or the time I hacked a camera drone, and realised afterward that it had nowhere to go.

Stacking the deck either way, allowing you to fine tune your experience, are Rewinds and Expert Mode checkboxes. Rewind modes are your “Oh sod, I didn’t mean to do that” button, allowing you to turn back time… But they’re a limited resource, adding a layer of tactical depth that remains intuitive. Meanwhile, expert mode restricts you in challenging ways, like adding a turn timer (Oops, now you can’t just sit back and think about it, because there’s ten seconds left to do something aaaaaaaaa-nuuuuu!), or making enemies harder. At its base level, though, the game encourages stealth over violence. Killing most guards will not only up the security level, it’ll cost you money, and that cost… Can quickly ramp up. Add to that that ammo is not always a guaranteed find, and… Well, it’s better to be dodgy, or sneaky, than to be violent, is all I’m saying… And I love it.

I was confident, and the gamble was won. Hell yes.

Do not do this unless you are confident each agent can handle things.

You’ll love it too, if you like turn based strategy and cyberpunk, or roguelikes and cyberpunk (As the levels are procedurally generated). If you’re not the patient type, however, or strategically minded… Don’t say I didn’t warn you when I say this game definitely wants you to think really carefully about whether you want to hack that Daemon protected safe open, or try and knock out that guard.

Invisible Inc released on the 12th of May. A camera droid is watching me write this review, and it’s creeping me out a little.

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